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First-Grade Writer's Block?

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: My first-grader is having problems with his writing assignments. He's a very bright child but seems to get writers' block almost every time he is asked to write. His teacher tells me that when he does write he writes beautifully, but is very slow at it. However, he usually sits and daydreams and is easily distracted when he needs to write. He says he just can't think of anything to write about. His teacher now allows him to miss some writing assignments so he doesn't get so discouraged at not finishing them. What can we do?

A: Avoid labeling your son's difficulty with writing as "writers' block." Labels tend to stick and cause problems later on. Instead, you and the teacher should focus on the areas of the writing process that are giving your son problems and help him with them.

Since your son can't think of anything to write about, he should be encouraged to describe personal experiences -- they are the easiest topics for young children to handle. At home, talk over possible story ideas with him, such as giving the dog a bath and visiting the zoo. If he doesn't have an idea for a story at school, his teacher can assign one or give him a picture to describe.

While having a topic will help your son, he probably also needs to learn how to expand it into a story. At school, the teacher should be teaching the students how to tell a simple story in chronological order. However, you can really help your son with this phase of writing by reading stories to him. At first, you should just ask him what happened on a page, then you can gradually have him retell more and more of the story. This will teach him how to organize what he writes.

Telling stories to your son is another way to show him how stories are organized. He will especially love to hear stories of your childhood. Also, every time you ask him to describe what happened at school or at a friend's house, you are giving him experience in putting a story together.

One way that both you and the teacher can encourage your son's writing is by having him share what he has created with a few friends. It will actually motivate him to write.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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